Japan mobile Sony Toyota

History lesson for Nokia’s Vertu in Japan

Nokia has announced that they plan to launch an MVNO with Docomo using their Vertu brand in Japan.
A quick look at this brings up many more questions than answers. Vodafone failed spectacularly in Japan just a few years ago, and without careful understanding of the Japan market, Vertu/Nokia will fail as well. Masayoshi Son was the major benefactor of the failed Vodafone Japan effort.
I think Vertu in Japan needs to understand why these efforts failed in Japan:
– Toyota’s Lexus brand
– Sony’s Qualia brand
Lexus did well in the US because the US Toyota dealership experience was so horrendous for customers that they were happy to pay more for a much better dealer experience AND the products had a premium that was not as high as the German competition but was as good as they expected of a Japanese manufacturer. Affordable luxury. In Japan, the dealer experience is much more uniform so that is not a competitive edge, and for Japanese car buyers, Lexus is a domestic brand, it does not have the cachet of a foreign brand like BMW or Audi. We all know that the Lexus RX and the Toyota Harrier are the same vehicle, the GS is a gussied up Toyota Crown, the IS is a gussied up Toyota Altezza, etc.
Sony’s Qualia effort was doomed from the start, even if the idea may have been a good one. The products were roundly derided as being poorer feature-sets for the outrageous prices that were being demanded.
Unless Vertu has a whole new line of phones designed just for the Japanese market, they’ll fail via product, as Vodafone did. And even if Vertu has a whole new line of phones for Japan, it’s incredibly poor timing to launch a premium-anything in Japan. Maybe if the target market is the top 10,000 richest people in Japan, but how valuable is that market really?
More competition in Japan’s mobile market is very welcome, but I don’t see clearly Nokia’s strategy wrt a Vertu-based MVNO in Japan. If anyone can convince me otherwise, I’m all ears.
UPDATE: on my way home yesterday I was wondering how Disney Japan is doing with their MVNO with Softbank but since the target demographic is so different from what Vertu wants to do, I don’t think there are many lessons to be learned.

Internet mobile

Meeker’s deck for 2008

Many people have a lot of issues with Mary Meeker‘s predictions; she was wrong much more than she should have been in the past. That said, her annual presentations at Web 2.0 are worth reviewing in light of the fact that she’s been wrong more than she’s been right. So use the data BUT make your own conclusions- don’t follow what she’s saying per se.

Funny Gizmo Internet Japan Macintosh mobile video

promoting iPhone in Japan

Softbank’s comic commercials to promote their mobile service are now promoting the iPhone in Japan with Aya Ueto and Dante Carver and the rest of the White Family clan.

More background on this series here:
Shiba SoftBank Ads – Part I
More Shiba SoftBank Ads (ホワイト家族24)
Shiba SoftBank Ads – Part 3
and finally
Shiba SoftBank Ads – Part 4
You have to understand Japanese to get all the jokes. Suffice it to say that Steve Jobs doesn’t use a white Shiba-inu to promote the iPhone anywhere else in the world.
via Hector’s Kirainet

Gizmo Internet Japan mobile News

iPhone not selling in Japan

Yukari Kane of the WSJ pops the bubble of the iPhone in Japan.

Apple’s Latest iPhone Sees Slow Japan Sales –

According to market-research firm MM Research Institute, Apple sold about 200,000 phones in Japan in the first two months. Since then, however, demand has been falling steadily, and analysts now widely believe sales are unlikely to reach a total of 500,000 units. That is half the one million units that they previously thought Apple could sell.

“Japanese users don’t know what to do with an iPhone,” he said. “Sales could grow if Apple provides specific examples of how it can be used.”

It’s interesting to think that Japanese users don’t know what to do with an iPhone. I suspect that is true because Japanese users are accustomed to being inside the walled garden of their carrier, so to have the full Internet is not appreciated or understood. Japanese mobile phones have browsers but they’re basically only used for the walled garden of the carrier.  I have the option of using a “full-browser” on my phone, but it would cost me 1500 yen/mo. or 18000 yen/yr. which I am certainly not willing to pay.

I believe that Roy Amara‘s quote is appropriate here: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” I think that the effect of the iPhone on the global mobile market in the long run, specifically providing a real browser on a mobile phone (note that full-browsers are coming on Android as well as Mobile Firefox), will be the most important legacy of the iPhone.

Japan mobile

handicapping the iPhone in Japan

For those of you who were unimpressed with this year’s MacWorld Keynote, Forbes has the latest article, Apple’s Fight In Japan, guessing whether the iPhone will do well in Japan.
It’s really hard to predict whether the iPhone will do well in Japan. I’m generally skeptical so I look to the fact that the iPhone (presumably) won’t have features that are unique to Japan such as the digital terrestrial TV tuner, or the digital wallet functionality, or the GPS functionality, etc. But Japanese consumers love new things and the iPhone would qualify, and yet maybe the hardcore have already purchased an iPod Touch?
The Forbes article touches on the fact that Japanese mobile phone users use one hand when operating their phones. That’s a significant difference with the usage of the iPhone. The iPhone is clearly a two-hand operating model, and from the market share of mobile phones with keyboards that require two-handed usage, that’s a niche market.
The question about the iPhone’s success in Japan gets to the heart of the fact that Japan’s mobile phone market is really an island unto itself, literally and figuratively. The fact that Samsung and Nokia have little-to-no market share in Japan and that Sony-Ericsson often launches separate Japan-only models speaks to the unique nature of this market.
Finally, and most importantly, will Jobs add a strap hook to the iPhone? I’ll bet he won’t, confounding the majority of Japanese users who love to accessorize their phones with straps and whatnot.
If you have thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear from you.